Gender-neutral children's books

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Gender-neutral children's books

Postby Andreas » 18 Mar 2014, 18:30

Among the recent tweets:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/16/campaign-gender-children-publishing-waterstones-malorie-blackman

The Let Books Be Books campaign seeks to put pressure on retailers and publishers not to market children's books that promote "limiting gender stereotypes".

The publisher told the Guardian last week that it had "no plans to produce any titles labelled 'for girls' or 'for boys' in the future". Parragon has followed suit, telling campaigners that "feedback on gender-specific titles is important to us" and "we have no plans to create new titles referring to boy/girl in the UK".

A Waterstones spokesman said: "Gender-specific displays are a definite 'no' … if a shop ever goes off-piste and does one we soon find out about it and get it removed.


No more "boy/girl in the UK"? Wouldn't the UK cease to exist as a human nation without boys and girls?

And isn't that last statement a bit sinister? Enforcement of gender neutrality using Stalinist methods.
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Re: Gender-neutral children's books

Postby Nathan » 18 Mar 2014, 18:53

A Waterstones spokesman said: "Gender-specific displays are a definite 'no' … if a shop ever goes off-piste and does one we soon find out about it and get it removed.


Next time I go there I'll have to act all nice and ask the staff where to find a selection of nice girly books for my made-up six-year-old niece who loves dolls and horses and hosting pretend tea parties.

Looking at another book / magazine retailer over here, there is a "for him" and "for her" magazine subscription gift section. It's generally fairly gender-typical stuff, with a fair amount of overlap, but it includes a cycling magazine in the female section and Saga magazine (a lifestyle magazine aimed at older people) as a male interest.
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Re: Gender-neutral children's books

Postby Yessica » 18 Mar 2014, 19:01

Stalinist? Not so sure.
To my mind it is pretty normal that a company dictates to the sellers how their product should be marketed.

The question should be: Is it smart for a company to market their books (or toys, or clothes) gender neutral?
There are topics that interest one gender more (such as pirates / fairies) and it sells better if you market just to the gender interested in it.

There is another bonus for the company: if you market everything gender specific you can make the parents buy it twice.

Consider childrens clothing: When it is gender neutral the next sibling can wear handme-downs when he / she is not of the same sex. The same is true for toys. Take a gyroskope for example a toy that is traditional for both genders. When I was a kid they had neutral colours and could be used by both boys and girls - now there is a pink version for the girls and a black version for the boys.

Is the company is acting against it's own economic interest? Or do they think that the PC crowd is so numerous that it is in their best economic interest to please them? If yes, are they right?
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Re: Gender-neutral children's books

Postby Yessica » 18 Mar 2014, 19:20

Next time I go there I'll have to act all nice and ask the staff where to find a selection of nice girly books for my made-up six-year-old niece who loves dolls and horses and hosting pretend tea parties


BTW my little son loves horses. So bad most of the books on horses are for girls and toy horses are often decorated with pink flowers.

I bought some toy horses from the Schleich company which look natural and not so fairy-queeny like.

What does make horses a female interest? Didn't men always use to ride in the past and the hobby horse was a popular toy for boys? Aren't there cultures where riding is seen as the privilege of males? Aren't riding males pretty common in some social groups within our culture? What I mean to say is that while some things are inborn, some are just culturally dictated and I do not like the fact that some things are so "gendered" those days.

That does not mean that I do not believe in inborn gender specific interests. I do. What I want to say: like I already said elsewhere, not everything we see in the mainstream middle class society of the past must have been inborn. It could have been something that was just the culture of that day and class.

To my mind you can tell the difference by looking at other cultures, looking at other classes and so on.

If something is seen as male in one class / culture but female in the other chances are that it is only a cultural thing.
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Re: Gender-neutral children's books

Postby Lindsey » 18 Mar 2014, 20:19

To be honest , if there is anything to stem the tide of lurid pink hideousness that has over-taken the female toy industry I welcome it! I believe it isn't actually traditional at all to heavily stereotype children's toys and books in the way they are now. Yes there have always been dolls and cars and children play differently, but it's startlingly more entrenched in modern times, as yessica says, it must generate more money in having to buy twice. Either that or the manufacturers of pink plastic have had a hand in it !
I was a child that hated dolls. I saw no point in them, other than the bottles that could be tipped up to watch the milk dissapear. (not surprisingly I avoid babies to , it's just not in me!) I learned to avoid pink as a symbol of toys I would not find interesting.
I only played with boys toys or gender neutral toys such as stuffed animals. And infact, I remember clearly a good section of the girls were in the same boat, as were an equal amount of boys. These aren't children that are 'outside the box' in any form, I believe a lot of kids just aren't either particularly competitive or maternal. They may not be the majority but it's not a small minority either. At least that's what composed my gang of friends, out of a class of 30 children, there was about 8 of us.
Not all children play separately, and enjoy games and and books together.

It not that anybody chooses how they play but I think I'd have had a much harder time as a modern child trying to avoid pink than I did in the eighties.
But gender specific books? That's a whole different kettle of fish again!
I'd like to know where the animal facts books will be shelved because I rarely read fiction. I'm hoping my nieces don't turn out to be Girly girls because I can't see that would be nearly so fun.
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Re: Gender-neutral children's books

Postby Nathan » 18 Mar 2014, 20:22

You make a good point Yessica, though I was just going on what some of the girls I can remember well from my childhood were interested in. Now I mention it, one of my best friends from back then used to collect troll dolls, and for a time used to wear shoes that had belonged to his older sister (his family were quite poor), but he wasn't feminine at all - I haven't seen him for 20 years, but as far as I'm aware he works as a builder now.

As for me, I went through phases of being quite intensely interested in certain things, such as dinosaurs, or astronomy, and I used to like reading adventure stories or books about exploration, which you'd have to say was typical of a boy, but one series which I liked so much I probably read them all at least ten times was Enid Blyton's Malory Towers series, about a girls' boarding school and written in about 1950, and which very much reflects the un-PC views of that era (I've just read on the Wiki page that there have been sequels to it written in the past few years - Nooooooooooooooo!). If they had had "For Girls" written on the front though I would likely never have picked one up at all, so I can see why people might not want such explicit gender-based marketing.
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Re: Gender-neutral children's books

Postby Andreas » 18 Mar 2014, 23:03

These are all good observations. What bothers me is not so much the content of this particular idea--it makes perfect sense for bookstores to have a "children's books" section, and let boys and girls pick what they want--as the tone in which it's being communicated (oh so enlightened). Underlying this there is also an implication that to suggest that there could be differences between girls and boys is somehow retrograde and oppressive.
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Re: Gender-neutral children's books

Postby Gavin » 18 Mar 2014, 23:52

I know what you mean, Andreas. That's how I interpreted it, too. But it is perfectly obvious there are differences and men and women are - generally - drawn to different interests. Hardly surprising since they are biologically very different.

It always strikes me as very insulting to women that feminists want to deny any differences between the sexes, as if it is better to be male.

Okay, yes, men have invented the vast majority of things (it's in their nature to do this), but women were always important to society in their own right too. It's crazy that outliers like this Judith Butler are supposed, for a moment, to represent normal women. In my opinion modern feminism has betrayed normal women, obliging them to work all hours, telling them men are their enemy and persuading them to postpone motherhood, if not forever then until the turn of their forties.

The denial only occurs one way, of course, too. What I mean is if you say to a feminist that women are innately better at something, she will enthusiastically agree. If you suggest men are innately better at something, that is inadmissible. This also happens with racial claims. Suggest black people are good at basketball and I imagine few would object, the evidence being clear enough. Suggest anything else, and well, you're a racist again, of course.
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Re: Gender-neutral children's books

Postby Yessica » 19 Mar 2014, 08:15

@ Andreas: I see your point.

@ Gavin: I think that a childless feminist has far more time to spread the word what women should be like than a mother. In past times men have objected to it, now they don't. Are they afraid people will think they are hateful?

Men should stand up to "defend" women who make more tradtional choices.
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